“Hi Annie here, CONGRATULATIONS on the first week of breastfeeding. It might not have been as easy as you thought but it is certainly worth it when you think about the amazing gift you are giving your new baby.
So what happens now?
After the first week hopefully you and your baby will be getting the hang of latching and feeds should be comfortable, if you are finding feeds painful or you have any cracks or bleeding to your nipples please ask for help.
It may be that a peer supporter can offer some suggestions for improving your position or it may be that you need a referral to a breastfeeding specialist clinic to check there is nothing else causing a problem.
Most breastfeeding issues can be overcome with the right support and information, you just need to ask.
Sometimes we don’t like to ask for help as it seems like we should just know how to breastfeed but remember it is a skill and it takes practice.
We mentioned earlier that no-one would expect to drive a car well without lots of lessons and practice so try not to view a breastfeeding challenge as a failure – it’s not!
If you are feeling well enough to get out and about you might want to think about popping along to a breastfeeding group – it can be great to chat to other new mums and realise that you are all experiencing similar things, mums who have older babies will be able to reassure you that it does get easier and may have tips for you to try.
Breastfeeding groups will normally have a trained peer supporter available to answer questions and offer support if you need it.
You will still be getting up to feed your baby through the night which can be tiring but think of it as a positive too – night time is when your hormones are at the highest and these feeds really boost your milk production keeping your baby well fed.
Lots of mums say the night feeds are a special time for them and baby with no distractions so try to enjoy those sleepy cuddles.
You may find it helpful to take a drink or snack to bed. If you find you are tired in the day then sleep when the baby sleeps, the housework will still be there tomorrow.
If you are lucky your partner or family will still be at around to help out with cooking and cleaning if so take advantage of the support and spend your time focussing on feeding your baby.
At this stage, your baby doesn’t need anything except you and your breastmilk (unless your doctor has prescribed anything for baby).
As I mentioned last time the best way to get your breastfeeding off to a great start is to follow your baby’s feeding cues and offer the breast whenever baby shows signs of interest.
There may be times that your breasts feel full and you want to offer baby a feed, that’s great you are responding to your body’s needs as well.
Despite what you might have heard, you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, when your baby is full he or she will stop feeding and may ‘spit’ your nipple out, again follow baby’s lead.
Breastfeeding helps your baby to gauge his or her appetite much better than formula as it changes through the feed.
One of the most difficult times over the next few weeks will be something called ‘growth spurts’. You may have heard of them but what are they?
They are times when your baby will suddenly spend 2 or 3 days feeding what seems like constantly, you may feel as though things have settled down nicely and then overnight your baby seems to be hungry all the time.
Even more worrying your baby may be fussy, pull on and off the breast when you offer it and cry more. Don’t worry – this is normal.
There are several theories but the most likely is that your baby is getting ready to grow and needs to stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
The easiest way to get through it is to accept it and try to respond to your baby, it will pass I promise. Growth spurts often happen between days 7 and 10 around 3 weeks, and again at 6 weeks.
These times are often when new mums question themselves and start to think they don’t have enough milk. This can lead to bottles of formula being given as baby seems to be starving.
If you are worried, think about all the signs that your baby is getting enough milk;
- Are you still getting plenty of wet and dirty nappies?
- Is your baby gaining weight?
- Is he or she happy and content between feeds most of the time?
If you are unsure or need to chat to someone you can call the FAB helpline 01924 851901 or speak to your health visitor. You might find it helpful to join our facebook group FAB breastfeeding support where you can chat to other mums and read up to date information.
So what are some of the common questions we hear at FAB?
Lots of mums ask ‘when can I get my baby into a routine?’ We would always encourage you to try and meet your baby’s needs in the way they are asking you to.
It can be very difficult to make your baby fit into a routine and generally leads to an unsettled baby, an upset mum and can impact on your milk supply as you try to go longer between feeds.
If you know you are a routine person and you are struggling with a feeling of ‘losing control’, try to give yourself a few weeks and see how it feels to trust your baby. Remember every day is an achievement.
Another of the things we hear a lot is ‘My baby is using me as a dummy!’ I think this is mostly because as new mums we don’t understand what is ‘normal’ for a breastfed baby.
I hope after reading this you are prepared for lots of feeding, at all times of the day and without a real routine or pattern, think about the times you want a drink, a snack, a hug and it’s easier to accept your baby’s behaviour.
If you want to give your baby a dummy I would suggest waiting until you feel that your breastfeeding and your milk supply are really well established.
As you move through the weeks another thing you might find is that your breasts become much softer. This is normal as your body starts to match the supply of milk to your baby’s needs, there will come a point where the quantity of milk you produce stops increasing.
It will change to meet your baby’s needs but the quantity remains the same. Celebrate the fact that your breasts are working well and providing everything your baby needs.
One of the other things we are asked about is expressing – at some point you may feel like you want to express your milk so your partner can be involved if you do so don’t be upset if at first, you don’t seem to produce much milk. There are two things to remember.
- Your baby is always going to be better at emptying your breast than any method of expressing – it’s how nature intended it to work. Some mums do choose to express and you will get better at it (just another one of those skills to learn)
- Because breastmilk is such a perfect food for your baby he or she doesn’t need huge quantities – please don’t compare breastmilk to the amounts you might see in a bottle of formula milk.
Most importantly, look after yourself and enjoy your baby, have lots of skin to skin, breastfeeding will get easier and there is plenty of support out there if you need it – you just need to ask!
All of the things we have looked at over the last few weeks assume that things are going well and you are not having any major challenges.
I know that it is not always easy and sadly some mums will really struggle with establishing breastfeeding. Please don’t let that put you off.
Most breastfeeding problems can be overcome with support and determination. Remember any breastmilk your baby gets is amazing. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work as you thought it might, ask for help as many times as you need to and accept every suggestion with an open mind.
“If we let normal happen it will make all of our lives easier in the long term.”